Practice Regent's Testing Program Reading Test
Five Passages : Thirty Minutes

© 1996, University System of Georgia - permission required for any reuse

Passage One

Your eyes are about three inches apart. That's more than trivia -- it's the reason you see the world in three dimensions. The separation gives your eyes two slightly different views of every scene you encounter. In the brain's visual cortex, these views are compared, and the overlap is translated into a stereoptic picture. To estimate relative distances, your brain takes a reading of the tension in your eye muscles.

But you only see in 3-D up to about 200 feet. Beyond that, you might as well be one-eyed -- your eyes aren't far enough apart to give two very different views over long distances. Instead, you rely on experience to judge where things are; the brain looks for clues and makes its best guess. For example, it knows that near objects overlap far ones; that bright objects are closer than dim ones; and that large objects are nearer than small ones.

These "monocular cues" are what painters use to trick us into thinking a flat canvas is three-dimensional and miles deep. That's why paintings are much more convincing if you close one eye: Your brain hunts down all the clues the painter has dropped. But when both of your eyes are open, the brain gets more information and mixed signals. The paint may say miles, but the muscles in your eyes say inches.

All of this fancy eyework is second nature to us, but it is learned. "Other cultures don't perceive pictures the same way we do," says J. Anthony Movshon, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at New York University. "For example, primitive people don't always think bigger means nearer. It's our Western way of seeing things, and it's a way of seeing that we've learned."

Passage Two

Heartened by the knowledge that Polly was not altogether a cretin, I began a long, patient review of all I had told her. Over and over and over again I cited instances, pointed out flaws, kept hammering away without letup. It was like digging a tunnel. At first everything was work, sweat, and darkness. I had no idea when I would reach the light, or even if I would. But I persisted. I pounded and clawed and scraped, and finally I was rewarded. I saw a chink of light. And then the chink got bigger and the sun came pouring in and all was bright.

Five grueling nights this took, but it was worth it. I had made a logician out of Polly; I had taught her to think. My job was done. She was worthy of me at last. She was a fit wife for me, a proper hostess for my many mansions, a suitable mother for my well-heeled children.

It must not be thought that I was without love for this girl. Quite the contrary. Just as Pygmalion loved the perfect woman he had fashioned, so I loved mine. I decided to acquaint her with my feelings at our very next meeting. The time had come to change our relationship from academic to romantic.

"Polly," I said when next we sat beneath our oak, "tonight we will not discuss fallacies."

"Aw, gee," she said, disappointed.

"My dear," I said, favoring her with a smile, "we have now spent five evenings together. We have gotten along splendidly. It is clear that we are well matched."

"Hasty Generalization," said Polly brightly.

"I beg your pardon," said I.

"Hasty Generalization," she repeated. "How can you say that we are well matched on the basis of only five dates?"

I chuckled with amusement. The dear child had learned her lessons well. "My dear," I said, patting her hand in a tolerant manner, "five dates is plenty. After all, you don't have to eat a whole cake to know that it's good."

"False Analogy," said Polly promptly. "I'm not a cake. I'm a girl."

I chuckled with somewhat less amusement.

Passage Three

In New Orleans, Moon Walk -- a pathway along a stretch of the Mississippi -- now provides the public access that had previously been denied. It's a charming place, where one night recently a band played on the walk as tourists and residents of the adjacent Vieux Carre (the Old Quarter or French Quarter) strolled past. A few feet west, the paddlewheeler Natchez sounded its whistle, signaling its imminent departure.

Now the city plans to extend public access to the area adjoining Moon Walk in an ambitious design that will, the city hopes, be a part of its development for the next world's fair. This more ambitious concept for the waterfront will be likely to stir considerable debate as competing projects vie for the opportunities for profit. The development will therefore require substantial participation, cooperation and scrutiny by citizens to make sure that while private profitability is maintained, the public's needs are satisfied, too.

The joint efforts of environmentalists, business-people, civic leaders and politicians have transformed abandoned, derelict port landscapes in cities throughout America into exciting commercial and recreational centers. Examples are the Cannery in San Francisco, the Riverfront Walk in San Antonio, Faneuil Hall Market in Boston and Harborplace in Baltimore.

It's easy to understand why the port areas were neglected. While many cities were growing up along rivers, lakes and natural harbors, depending on water-borne commerce, waterfronts thrived. After World War II, however, technological changes in transportation -- improved planes and airports, the interstate highway system, larger tracks for freight trains and containerized shipping -- rendered many old port facilities obsolete. Waterfront areas became peripheral to the life of the city. Piers were abandoned, and the waterfronts lay idle in many older cities, paralleling the more general urban decay.

With the 1970's came a period of reflection on this condition and a resurgence of urban pride. Urban renewal stopped being a license for large-scale demolition; politicians and planners took a hard look at their available resources and began to experiment with new development techniques. Waterfronts became one focus of the large urban revitalization effort.

Passage Four

A wool sock, a toilet seat, Oriental silk -- out of a millennium of mud comes proof that the globe-traveling Vikings weren't the ravaging rovers historians made them to be.

"The old English image of the Vikings as simply blood-thirsty bands of pillagers vanished with these finds," says Richard Hall, an archaeologist.

"We dug down and found a cocoon of water-logging, a time capsule of everyday life," said Hall, who led a tour Wednesday through a muddy concrete hall fashioned out of the hole left from the excavation.

Hall was one of some 400 people who, for five years, dug up the leftovers of the lives of an estimated 30,000 Vikings. Workers discovered the sophisticated settlement when a central district of York was leveled for rebuilding.

Starting April 14, 1984, electric cars will carry tourists through a tunnel of time that goes back to 866 A.D., when the Vikings came to York, 188 miles northwest of London.

Archaeologists are eager to display what they found in a $3.9 million reconstruction of Jorvik, the Anglo-Saxon name for the settlement.

"We have skeletons, 15,000 objects, a quarter-of-a-million pieces of pottery, some of the best preserved Viking-age buildings ever discovered and five tons of animal bones," Hall said.

The digs revealed intimate details of Viking life. There is a toilet seat, keys, tools, games counters, the seeds in the blackberries they picked and a knitted woolen sock.

"They were a great trading nation with a sophisticated monetary system," Hall said.

"We will show the range of products in which they traded -- silk from the Far East, amber from the Baltic, pottery from the Rhineland, cowrie shells from the Indian Ocean."

Passage Five

Review of "The Collected Prose." By Elizabeth Bishop. Edited by Robert Giroux. 278 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The late Elizabeth Bishop always epitomized, in John Ashbery's phrase, "a writer's writer's writer." By 1976, when she became the first American -- and the first woman -- ever to receive the Neustadt International Prize, the world at large began to realize what many of her fellow poets had long suspected: that her poetic achievement might in time overshadow that of her more famous contemporaries. Bishop's admirers will want to consult her "Collected Prose" for the light it sheds on her poetry. They will discover, however, that it is more than just a handsome companion volume to last year's "Complete Poems, 1927-1979." Bishop's clean, limpid prose makes her stories and memoirs a delight to read.

Robert Giroux, Bishop's editor, divides her "Collected Prose" into "Memory: Persons & Places" and "Stories." Fair enough, though inevitably the distinctions between these two categories blur. Stories like "Gwendolyn" and the justly celebrated "In the Village" do double duty as autobiographical statements. By the same token "Efforts of Affection" -- a memoir of Marianne Moore as mentor and friend -- achieves the emotional resonance of a finely wrought short story. So does "The U.S.A. School of Writing," Bishop's account of her first job after graduation from Vassar in the midst of the Great Depression. For the grand sum of $15 a week, she impersonated a "successful, money-making" author named "Fred G. Margolies" for a shady correspondence school in New York City.

Last updated: November 8, 1996